Harvey Stanbrough is an award-winning writer who follows Heinlein’s Rules avidly. He also enjoys the freedom of a technique called Writing Off Into the Dark. He learned the technique from Dean Wesley Smith.
Harvey’s works have been nominated for the Frankfurt (Germany) Book Fair Award, the Foreword Magazine Engraver’s Award, the Pushcart Prize, the BEA (NY) Book of the Year Award and the National Book Award.
By the end of September 2016, Harvey had written and published 19 novels and a novella, over 150 short stories, and hundreds of poems. He also compiled and published 30 collections of short fiction and 5 critically acclaimed poetry collections. To see what he’s done since then, click the tabs at the top of the page.
Harvey’s titles are available in every ebook format in over 400 markets and 1200 libraries worldwide. His longer works also are available in print. Because he is unable to do otherwise, he splits his writing personality among writing personas and, strictly for purposes of being cagey, slips in and out among various pseudonyms.
Here is one of Harvey’s short stories. Enjoy.
* * *
The Breath Formed
“[Hunting is a most] detested sport
that owes its pleasure to another’s pain.”
He was eating. Picking tender shoots of new grass from early November snow.
The air was crisp, clean, as if radiating off ice.
There was almost no breeze, and then there was no breeze.
The wind was cold up the canyon before, but now it was barely moving at all. Scented lightly with wild roses and strawberries, the smell of pine trees and melting snow.
The sun was warm on his back. The thin layer of snow still on the branches and on the ground was mostly transparent. Droplets of water dripped from the edges.
It was peaceful. Quiet.
There was only the sound of his left front hoof as he adjusted his stance. Only the sound of a droplet of water falling from a pine branch. It hushed into the shaded snow beneath it.
A big sound ripped through the solitude.
It was too big to stop. It slapped the far wall of the canyon, then bounced back and forth, then back and forth, then back and forth, fading. Each time it left a bit of itself behind in the tall pine trees.
But it was a big sound and something hit him.
He swayed hard. His back hooves turned in the moist earth, the pine needles. He almost sat on his left hip. He caught himself and bolted downhill.
Before him, the breath formed, the steam that was his breath.
His eyes wide, he plunged into the breath.
It formed, and it was gone.
He ran through his own breath.
The breath formed. It led him. It was gone.
He ran through his breath.
What was the big sound? And why?
Calm. Calm. Run into the breath.
Make more breath, and run into the breath.
Keep running into the breath. Don’t stop.
Running into the breath.
A big sound, hard. And something hit him.
Then fire. A place of fire. There was a place of fire in front of his back legs.
Snow. If he could throw himself on the snow, he might douse the fire and—
No, the fire was trying to trick him.
Fire burns bigger when things don’t run.
If he stopped it would burn more, bigger, faster.
It would burn him up. Run harder. Harder.
A numbness was moving to his hips.
No, through his hips. They were numb.
His hips were numb.
Through his hips, it was moving into his back legs.
Trace it back. Run harder. Trace the numbness back.
It was coming from the fire. A trick of the fire.
Coming to make him stop.
Run faster. Outrun it. Run harder.
What was the big noise and why?
What had hit him?
It hit so hard.
He reached farther with his front legs, digging, pulling, trying to speed up.
Run faster. Run harder. Leave the fire behind. Leave the numb behind.
Leave. Leave. He began to slow.
The breath formed. He moved into it. Through it. Slowed.
Maybe the loud sound was not for him.
The breath formed.
Keep moving through it.
Maybe what hit him was an accident. Maybe nobody was trying to hurt him.
Maybe somebody would come to help him.
Maybe stop. Maybe wait.
They were coming to help.
He thought he would slow, move into a clearing. There were plenty of clearings this high, all filled with beautiful things. A good place to slow. A good place to lie down. To wait.
Purple flowers, poking through snow around the edges where the trees kept them safe.
Yellow flowers low to the ground where the sun hit more. Yellow flowers, just peeking through the patchwork thin ice-snow. Clear droplets dripping soft around the edges. Beautiful, beautiful things.
He thought he would lie down gracefully, sideways to the trail. He would lie sideways, see them coming to help. He would guide them in.
They would kneel next to him. He would raise his head to thank them.
They would put out the fire. They would help him.
He picked a clearing, the next one.
The breath formed. He stumbled, but walked into the breath. Walked slowly through the breath.
His hips and back legs were numb, his front legs filled with fatigue. He wanted to turn sideways, to watch for them, guide them in and—
The breath formed. He stumbled again, staggered hard.
He stopped. Swayed.
The breath formed and the muscles in his left leg tried to tense, tried to move him into it. He moved his nose into it. It was cool.
The breath formed and he watched as it dissipated.
The breath formed and he stared through it.
His back end let go and twisted him to the ground.
The fire was hot, growing.
The breath formed. His eyes grew wide.
Stopping was bad.
A trick of the fire.
All a trick.
He reached with his chin. Reached downhill with his chin. Reached toward the purple flowers peeking through the shaded snow. He stretched his throat, looking for a breath.
Striving for a breath.
Calm. The breath formed, dissipated.
The breath formed. It hung there. It dissipated.
That was okay. It was there.
Calm. He didn’t have to watch anymore.
The breath formed.
It would dissipate. He didn’t have to watch.
He didn’t want to watch.
He closed his eyes.
Somebody would come to help him.
The breath formed. He felt it cool on his snout.
It was an accident, the big sound and what hit him.
He stretched his throat again.
The breath formed.
No need to watch. No need to know it’s there.
Just keep making it.
The sound, something hitting him. It was all an accident.
It was peaceful. It was quiet. There was only the sound of a droplet of water falling from a pine branch into the snow. There was only the sound of his left front hoof when he adjusted his stance.
He tried to adjust his left front hoof now, remembering.
A droplet of water fell from a pine branch.
It hit beside his right eye.
Trickled down his nose like a tear.
* * * * * * *